An Arizona mother with six children developed cancer-related alopecia while receiving radiation to treat a brain tumor. She was upset by how much she stood out as a result. Her son grew his long blond hair to make her a wig.
Doctors identified a benign brain tumor in the pituitary gland as the cause of Melanie Shaha’s long-term headaches in 2003. The tumor impeded the gland’s function and controlled stress, growth, and metabolism hormones. After a successful operation removed the tumor, and all was well.
Doctors, however, irradiated the tumor in 2006 after it recurred. In 2017, the tumor reappeared for the third time, and doctors prescribed radiation therapy.
In 2017, Melanie Shaha of Gilbert, Arizona, began undergoing chemotherapy to treat a brain tumor that affected the function of her pituitary gland. Shaha had previously undergone surgery to remove a benign tumor successfully. Chemotherapy was prescribed this time, and she began losing her hair.
“Not having hair, you stick out like a sore thumb, and well-meaning people can say things that break your heart,” she told the outlet. “I don’t mind being sick, but I mind looking sick. I’d rather blend in and not stand out at the store,” Shaha told TODAY Parents.
In a year, her 23-year-old son Matt Shaha joked that he should grow his hair long and make her a wig. Then, “something clicked,” and he decided to keep growing his hair.
She added that she didn’t want to burden her son in any way, saying: “I would tell him, ‘I love your hair’ and he’d say, ‘Coming soon to a head near you!'”
In just two and a half years, Matt eventually decided to grow his hair into a wig for his mother. On March 21, 2022, Matt had 12 inches of hair and could make a wig. Photographer Mercedes Berg captured the magical mother-son moment as he headed to his mom’s house for his big cut.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Matt told Fox 10 Phoenix of donating his hair. “She gave me the hair in the first place.”
“We were super pumped and when they started cutting, we bawled,”
Melanie told TODAY. Its lopped locks were shipped to Compassionate Creations, a California-based company that makes hand-threaded wigs for people with hair loss. The wig, which costs approximately $2,000, was also purchased by Matt, according to Fox 10.
“The family was such a joy to work with,” Compassionate Creations co-founder Veronica Balch told TODAY Parents. “When someone selflessly shaves their head for a family member, it makes what we do even more special.”
“You know, I’ve lost my eyebrows, lost my eyelashes, I lost my hair, so it’s just been such a tremendous gift to be able to have a more normal appearance, to go places and not stand out because you look unusual, but to fit in and be beautiful,” Melanie said to Fox 10. “It’s really great.”